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  • 2018 Lexus RX 450h

    Posted on September 7th, 2018 ninarussin

    Hybrid luxury for active lifestyles

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Lexus RX 450h

    The RX 450h is the gasoline/electric version of Lexus’ best-selling midsize crossover. Changes for the 2018 model year include a new premium option package adding power folding outside mirrors, premium leather upholstery and a rear armrest with storage box. Lexus Enform Safety Connect and Service Connect are now included for the first ten years of ownership.

    Power for the RX 450h comes from a 3.5-liter V-6 engine and two electric motors. On the all-wheel drive version, separate motor generators drive each axle. That, combined with the fact that electric motors develop peak torque at extremely low speeds, gives the hybrid exceptional zero-to-sixty acceleration: 8.1 seconds according-to the manufacturer.

    Base price is $45,695 excluding destination. Options on the test car include the new premium package, Mark Levinson audio system, heads-up display and blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, bringing the final MSRP to $54,515.

    Eye-catching style

    2018 Lexus RX 450h

    One of the biggest changes with the current-generation RX is its styling, replacing a much more conservative exterior on the former-generation models. Lexus’ spindle grille has been the subject of some controversy, with strong opinions on both sides. It seems to work best with higher profile vehicles such as the RX, where the large element is balanced off by some additional height. The new design gives the RX some much-needed road presence and works well with the crossover’s bullet-shaped profile and raised tail end.

    As with many of the current crossovers, the rear pillars are quite wide and create some large blind spots in the back corners. The standard rearview camera does a good job of eliminating this problem when the driver is backing out of a parking spot, but buyers should also plan on buying the optional blind spot monitoring system ($1065) to avoid any mishaps in rush-hour traffic. I’m not quite sure why Lexus didn’t include this feature as standard equipment since it is such an important add-on.

    As with all Lexus products, fit and finish throughout the exterior is flawless. LED headlamps provide bright beams of light after dark to illuminate dark rural and suburban streets with minimal drain on the car’s electrical system. Daytime running lamps make the RX more visible to other drivers during low light conditions.

    Test drive in Southern Arizona

    2018 Lexus RX 450h

    Over the past week I drove the RX 450h around Phoenix, Arizona’s east valley as well as some rural roads through the Gila River Indian Community to the south. The eco-friendly RX is an appealing package, delivering excellent power and solid handling.

    Lexus engineers have improved their continuously-variable automatic transmissions with each new iteration, so the version on the current RX works well with the engine and electric motors to transfer power seamlessly to the wheels. In terms of the driving experience, the hybrid technology is essentially invisible.

    Drivers can monitor energy flow using a display in the center console, but shouldn’t notice much difference in driving dynamics from the gasoline model. While early versions of the hybrid felt rather nose-heavy, the current model is quite well balanced. Those who live in climates with extremely hot summers will appreciate the fact that the air conditioning compressor stays on when the gasoline engine shuts off, so the car doesn’t heat up at traffic lights.

    2018 Lexus RX 450h

    Response from the electric power steering system is light years ahead of the former generation, especially in-the-area of on-center response. There is plenty of assist on the low end for maneuverability in crowded parking lots.

    Eighteen-inch wheels come standard, giving the RX an ample footprint for better traction at high speeds. Buyers can upgrade to 20-inch rims to add some additional style, but those who live in four-season climates might do better to stick with the smaller rims and a slightly larger sidewall on the tires.

    A four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and double-wishbone setup in back. The compact double wishbone design enables engineers to maximize room in the cargo bay and second-row seating area. Four-wheel ventilated disc brakes stop the RX in firm, linear fashion.

    2018 Lexus RX 450h

    With the addition of blind spot monitoring, visibility around the perimeter is good. The rearview camera includes lines superimposed over the camera image to reflect steering input so backing into a parking space is a non-issue.

    The optional heads-up display shows the driver’s current speed as well as posted speed limits.

    Standard active safety features include dynamic radar cruise control, lane keeping assist and autonomous braking with pedestrian detection. Intelligent high beam headlamps automatically dim if a vehicle approaches from the opposite direction so-as-to not impair that driver’s visibility.

    As with all Lexus vehicles, occupants can enjoy a quiet interior that makes conversing on the highway or enjoying the Mark Levinson audio system easy.

    Versatile interior

    Lexus RX 450h Interior

    The RX 450h interior provides comfortable seating for four up to five passengers. Keyless entry and start is standard, enabling drivers to enter the car and fire the ignition without fumbling for the key fob. The addition of the second set of armrests and storage area that comes with the new option package gives second-row occupants a handy place to stash tablets, laptops and small packs.

    Lexus continues to use a traditional transmission lever on the center console which some might feel more comfortable with than the new push-button systems.

    Engineers located the nickel-metal hydride battery pack under the floor so as not to impinge on room in the second row or the cargo area. The RX 450h easily meets our bicycle-friendly standards. Those wanting an outside rack should opt for a hitch-mounted version due to the car’s high profile.

    User interface for the infotainment system is quite intuitive. Knobs for basic audio controls save the driver from having to use multiple clicks on the center stack screen that can be distracting.

    Both the center stack screen and gauge cluster are easy to see in a variety of lighting conditions. An information screen in the gauge cluster includes tire pressures at each wheel, so the driver doesn’t have to guess if the low tire pressure sensor goes off.

    Scout GPS comes standard. The system has met with mixed reviews in terms of usability, but since more folks these days have access to Google maps, that isn’t a big issue.

    Lexus Enform enables drivers to get turn-by turn directions downloaded into the vehicle using a call button in the car. I have found the system very helpful when I was in a situation that didn’t permit pulling off to the side of the road to program navigation.

    Standard safety

    The Lexus RX 450h comes with ten airbags, antilock brakes, stability and traction control, Lexus Safety System +, daytime running lamps, fog lamps, rearview camera and tire pressure monitoring.

    Lexus builds the RX 450h at its Cambridge, Ontario Canada assembly plant.

    Like: A stylish and fuel-efficient midsize crossover with good power, handling and steering response.

    Dislike: Blind spot monitoring is not standard equipment.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Lexus
    Model: RX 450h
    Year: 2018
    Base price: $45,695
    As tested: $54,515
    Horsepower: 259 HP @ 6000 rpm (gasoline engine only)
    Torque: 247 lbs.-ft. @ 4600 rpm (gasoline engine only)
    Zero-to-sixty: 8.1 seconds
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Towing: No
    Off-road: No
    Fuel economy: 31/28 mpg city/highway

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